By Bill Finley
Though she was a maiden when she was retired after five starts, Song of Bernadette caught the eye of partners Fred Hertrich and John Fielding when they thumbed through the pages of the 2014 Keeneland November catalogue. They liked that she was by Bernardini, that when you dug deep into her pedigree there was a lot to like, and that she had the type of looks and conformation that the partners desire. And, she didn’t figure to sell for that much.
When the hammer fell, they were the successful bidders, paying $140,000. They obviously hoped for success, but probably never imagined what was to come. Song of Bernadette went on to produce Catholic Boy (More Than Ready), a Grade I winner on both the turf and dirt this year and a major contender in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic.
That makes Song of Bernadette, who is only nine, the type of broodmare a lot of people would love to hold on to, but Hertrich and Fielding have other ideas. In foal to War Front, she has been entered as Hip 188 from the Taylor Made consignment at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale. Hertrich and Fielding cannot afford not to sell her.
“The million-dollar question of why we are selling, is the million-dollar question, because we can’t afford to own her,” Hertrich said. “In other words, again, with the commercial breeding operation that we have, we don’t keep mares of that value. We put them back in the marketplace and let them be owned by someone again, that will value them, breed them correctly on a go forward basis. In our operation we just can’t afford an asset that has that type of value.”
There’s no telling what Song of Bernadette will sell for, but it surely will be well more than the $140,000 Hertrich and Fielding paid for her. That’s one way to keep a breeding business thriving–buy low, sell high.
“Momma’s going to have to go into someone else’s hands and somebody will be rewarded because she’s a fantastic mare,” Hertrich said.
“John Fielding is my partner and we’ve been partners for a long time. It will be a bittersweet moment because of what she’s done for us and the farm. But we also know that whoever purchases her will be very, very happy.”
Not only is Catholic Boy a top class horse, but he has proven to be among the most versatile horses of modern times. That’s among the other reasons why Hertrich expects his mare to sell so well. Looking for a top-class dirt distance horse? Check. Looking for a horse who could win Group I races on the turf in Europe? Check. Looking for a horse who has shown amazing heart in the stretch and will fight back when it appears he is beaten? Check.
“The interesting thing about her is she has worldwide appeal,” Hertrich said. “She’s had a More Than Ready that’s a Grade I winner on the turf, as well as the dirt. So we’ve had inquiries from people from Australia and from Japan. We’ve had European interest, and of course North American interest. So I think she truly has that worldwide flair that anybody could buy her. So we are very encouraged by that and I think she will be well received in the marketplace.”
Song of Bernadette’s first foal, a filly named Chichmeister (Bodemeister), is a winner but has made only $13,959 on the track. It is Catholic Boy who put Song of Bernadette on the map.
Owned by Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables LLC, Siena Farm LLC, and Twin Creeks Racing Stables, LLC, Catholic Boy’s early success all came on the grass. He won the GIII With Anticipation S. on the grass and then ran a strong fourth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. To the surprise of many, trainer Jonathan Thomas elected to run him next on the dirt on the GII Remsen S. He won by 4 1/2 lengths and was officially on the GI Kentucky Derby trail.
Kicking off his 3-year-old campaign, he ran a strong second in the GIII Sam F. Davis S. at Tampa, but followed that up with an uncharacteristically dull fourth in the GI Florida Derby.
Thomas took him off the Derby trail, gave him some time and brought him back on the grass. He won the GIII Pennine Ridge S. and the GI Belmont Derby. Each time, he looked hopelessly beaten when he was passed by the Chad Brown-trained Analyze It (Point of Entry), only to fight back in two of the gamest efforts seen on the racetrack in a long time.
“He’s the greatest fighter I have ever seen,” Hertrich said.
So, now he’s a grass horse again? Not necessarily.
Thomas ran him back in the GI Travers S. at a mile-and-a-quarter on the main track at Saratoga and he beat up on his competition, winning by four. His next start will be in the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic.
And, for Song of Bernadette, it’s not just that she has produced one of the best and most versatile horses in training, she is in foal to top sire War Front and at age nine has already produced a Grade I winner.
“Rarely do you find a mare that has produced a Grade I winner that is under 10,” Hertrich said. “She’s had a foal every year, has the demeanor she has. She’s the whole package. People can envision 10 to 15 foals still available that could be produced by the mare.”
Hertrich is a sportsman, a breeder, an owner, but also a businessman. It’s time to take some money, and a lot of it, off the table.